brand experience

Building a customer-centric brand for community retail

When I started Spyder Works almost 25 years ago, I was in the making promises business.  The firm created design, marketing strategy, advertising and promotion in support of clients’ brands.  Back then, I considered my job well done if I could attract legions of new customers into their stores.  After all, that’s what the ‘making promises’ business is all about in retail.  Attracting well-qualified traffic. The idea was that compelling advertising and promotions along with great store design and signage would delight our clients’ customers and build their brands.

As my relationship with retailers grew, I had the opportunity to travel from community to community and store to store.  What I quickly realized was that some stores have an important social role beyond just places to shop.  These stores are also like informal community centres where you run into friends and acquaintances, where you can chat and catch up, where you can make plans and stay in touch.

During my travels, and particularly during store visits across Canada, I saw first hand how powerful a sense of belonging can be.  Building and nurturing inclusive communities is one of the things we do best in Canada, which is really a vast connected landscape of tight-knit neighbourhoods.  Main street communities in Canada have many faces and are as diverse and unique as their urban counterparts. When main street communities succeed, the nation succeeds.

Community stores not only offer a welcome sense of belonging, they are also good for  business. 

After all, the longer people linger in a store, the greater the chance that they will buy more.  A welcoming store also increases the probability that your customers will return and develop a loyalty to your store and a stronger relationship with your brand.

I realized that all of the branding work you do, no matter how clever, won’t keep a customer coming back if the experience in-store doesn’t reflect the customer’s expectations on all levels of experience.  To properly serve our retail clients, Spyder Works also needed to be in the ‘promise keeping’ business.

How do you build a brand around the culture of ‘promise keeping’?

Businesses have to take it upon themselves to foster a sense of close-knit belonging in any environment whether it’s in a big city or a small town.  They need to evoke the sentiment of old-fashioned “Main Street” culture.  Retailers, marketers and agencies have the same goal when it comes to connecting with consumers, simply, to build a passionate community of customers that engage regularly with a brand.

The success of your customer relationships depends largely on how well you are able to engage your community.

Community stakeholders’ participation can help you shape your business to ensure you are responding to local preferences.  In community retail, the members in your community are not looking for just a cheque to support local causes, events or sponsorship – the community is looking for your participation, engagement and involvement.  How committed are you to where your customers live and work?  Ideally, you should be involved with your community from an early stage engagement; this will help you to form lasting relationships with community members to ensure a sense of belonging in a neighbourhood that everyone can be proud of.

In contrast, in all retail, where your front line people are face-to-face brand ambassadors, employee turnover can leave your brand perilously exposed.   Without a solid foundation, your brand is at risk of not keeping the promise that it communicates to everyone.  That’s why, at Spyder Works, we feel that it’s important to look at branding from both sides of the coin, outward and inward facing.  This insight has lead us to design learning programs and workshops to extend your brand to the in-store experience, embracing your corporate values and your mission with the people responsible for keeping your brand promise with your customers… your front line team members.

Retailers need to complete the branding circle to survive in the economy of relationship building. 

At Spyder Works with our retail clients, we have created ambitious brand strategies that more accurately capture the essence of brand by embracing community and engaging customers.  In this hyper connected world we are supporting our clients on the front lines of their stores, we can boldly claim that we’re no longer a half-branding company.

The secret to building a customer-centric brand for community retail is like maintaining a long lasting relationship with your close friends. Keep your relationship transparent and genuine.  Show up, stay in the moment, stay in touch, encourage and support them as they grow with you.

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Did Target ever really come to Canada? Not according to their Mission Statement.

Leases in less than optimum locations, a weak supply chain and runaway ambition in opening 133 stores may have all ganged up to doom Target in Canada.  But, there’s one corporate failure that intrigues me even more.  Target ignored its own mission statement. ‘Our mission is to make Target your preferred shopping destination in all channels by delivering outstanding value, continuous innovation and exceptional guest experiences by consistently fulfilling our Expect More. Pay Less.® brand promise.’

Target must have known, before coming to Canada, that it wouldn’t be able to offer U.S. price points or U.S. selection.  It also must have known that those were the two things Canadians loved about shopping at Target south of the border.  So, here’s the $5.4 billion question… if you can’t get those two fundamental promises right, why bother coming to Canada at all?  The cheap chic appeal of Target didn’t travel well.

Maybe more than anything else, Target’s ungracious exit from Canada shines an uncomfortably bright light on the whole exercise of creating mission statements in the first place.  I think for many companies, mission statements and the accompanying brand promise are just corporate accessories that they feel are a mandatory part of a website or annual report.  Leaders and managers only seem to pay attention to them when it suits them and ignore them too often and too hastily when a shiny new opportunity arises. The result, yet another announcement in the media of a shuttered company. In this case, one that was ill-fated from the start by it’s seemingly altered promise of expect more, pay more and receive less, in Canada.

At Spyder Works, our brand promise is encapsulated in Building Business by Design®. Design, of course, referring to the thought and intention behind the creation of a new idea or direction. Whenever we are creating something for a client, we test it against that statement. Ensuring that whatever we create is single-mindedly focused on our client’s own promise to their customers.

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Starwood makes its brand memorable with music

04_22_14_StarwoodHotels

Hotels are for sleeping. Hotels are for meetings. Hotels are for dining and getting together for a drink in the bar. And now, in a natural and intuitive brand extension, hotels are for music.

Through its Global Music Tour, the Starwood Preferred Guest Program is bringing internationally renowned artists to its hotels for the exclusive enjoyment of its guests. The tagline for the Tour is ‘Hear the music, see the world.’

Why is this brilliant?

Starwood Hotels are about experience and exploration. This meticulous brand has 1,175 properties in 100 countries, but they’re segmented into nine distinct banners that reflect the level of luxury and personal attention individual guests expect from a hotel. This tailored to measure approach to accommodation is a part of Starwood’s mission to deliver wonderful experiences to its guests.

Music, especially music that’s a three minute elevator ride from your room and created just for you, is an enriched and expanded experience. It is memorable because it puts Starwood’s international destinations to music.

Starwood is a believer in maintaining its connection with its customers through the Starwood Preferred Guest Program. With the Global Music Tour, the brand has found that elusive extra emotional hook.

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